Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#instagrub: Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Brown Butter-Heirloom Tomato Sauce, Creamy Burrata Cheese, Fresh Basil, + a Drizzle of Balsamic Reduction

Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Brown Butter-Heirloom Tomato Sauce, Creamy Burrata Cheese, Fresh Basil, + a Drizzle of Balsamic Reduction
Tag team, back againnnnnn. It's our official first recipe of the new year!! Hip-hip-hooYAY. Anyway, it's been pretty dreary here in Atlanta. Not only has it been 20-30 degrees outside, but it's raining too, which makes it 10x worse. But with all things in this world, you gotta find that silver lining. With cold weather comes sitting by the fire, wearing cozy sweaters, and eating hearty, warm + toasty, food. That means, we will be eating a-shit-ton of casseroles, soups, pot roast, and roasted winter vegetables. One of those go-to dishes for us is Eggplant Parmesan. Because, lez'be'honest, crispy fried food + melty cheese are practically synonymous with comfort. And as always, I had to give this Italian classic a little oomph. Slices of eggplant are coated into crunchy herbed panko breadcrumbs and fried until golden brown + crispy on the outside and have reached a soft eggplant velvet on the inside. I don't know about you, but I'm jealous of the eggplant, I want to be velvet on the inside... amirite? Instead of the traditional marinara that is thinner and heavy on the tomato paste flavor, I decided to make a tomato sauce by browning a heap of butter until nutty in fragrance, followed by throwing in a mound of baby heirloom tomatoes, so that they can caramelize until they burst. This fresh brown butter-heirloom tomato sauce is oh-so-simple, yet surprisingly equal in flavor to any other sauce I've ever made. More importantly, it thickens to almost a tomato jam-like consistency, which I think lends to a way better Eggplant Parmesan because it maintains great layers and also does not make the fried eggplant any less crispy. That's called a "win-win" y'all. Arguably the best part of any dish is the cheese component. And in this case, it is amped up with something that is better than fresh mozzarella. What could be better than that, you might ask... Burrata. Yes, mozzarella's cream filled cousin is already luscious and dream-worthy on its' own, so why not use it this casserole-style Eggplant Parmesan? Finally, you have to use whole fresh basil leaves in between the other hearty layers, which gives it an extra delightful note that you cannot, will not, and should not miss. After the dish has baked, we like to spoon servings onto our dinner plates with a drizzle of balsamic reduction, followed by a mound of freshly grated Parmesan cheese + a garnish of minced basil!! So you see y'all, as long as it is cold outside, we get to enjoy the little things in life, like this decadent Eggplant Parmesan. Gather 'round your honey, close friends, and family because this is something that you should be required to make if the temperature outside drops below freezing. It is that good!! Enjoy :)

For the Brown Butter-Heirloom Tomato Sauce:
2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter
4 Cloves of Fresh Garlic (2 minced + 2 thinly sliced)
½C Vidalia Onion, Finely Chopped
4C Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
2T Balsamic Vinegar
¼t Dried Oregano
1t Dried Red Pepper Flakes (or less if you don’t want it that spicy)
¾C Fresh Basil, Minced
Pinch of Sugar (or to your desired liking)
Fleur de Sel & Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste

For the Breaded Eggplant:
1 Large Eggplant, Sliced ¼inch Thick Slices
2T Kosher Salt
½C AP Flour
1 Beaten Egg + ¼C Buttermilk 
Herbed Italian Breadcrumbs (you can use traditional or panko style)
Canola Oil, For Frying

For the Eggplant Parmesan:
Prepared Brown Butter-Heirloom Tomato Sauce, Room Temperature
Breaded Eggplant Slices (already fried until crispy & golden brown)
2 Balls of Creamy Burrata Cheese, Cut into Slices
Fresh Basil (whole, large leaves)
4T Freshly Grated Parmesan
A Sprinkling of Dried Red Pepper Flakes
Balsamic Reduction, For Drizzling

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking dish with Pam. Also, for a helpful hint, it is important that you make sure that you have an equal amount of slices of the eggplant + burrata cheese, as well as that many large fresh basil leaves.
2. For the Brown Butter-Heirloom Tomato Sauce: In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the diced onions + the fresh garlic (both minced and sliced) and cook until translucent. Reduce the heat to low, add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften and burst and the butter turns brown, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and basil. Season the sauce with fleur de sel, fresh cracked pepper, and sugar to taste.
3. For the Breaded Eggplant: Cut the eggplant in ¼inch slices and toss the 2T of kosher salt. Arrange in a single layer in a colander for 45 minutes to an hour. Then dry completely with paper towels, making sure to press down and remove any more moisture and excess salt. Next, you have to set up a battering station. I use 3 pie tins. For the first station, I use plain flour. For the second station, I whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. For the third station, I use herbed Italian breadcrumbs. Now, place the slices of prepared eggplant into the flour mixture, then into the egg wash, and finally the breadcrumbs (making sure they are completely covered).
4. Frying the Eggplant: Heat a deep sauté pan to medium heat with the canola oil. Once the oil has heated, fry the slices for 2-3 minutes each side (depending on the size of your fryer, mine is pretty small, so I do 2 at a time). The eggplant should be golden brown on the outside and velvety soft on the inside. Once they are done frying, place them onto a paper towel to drain, and sprinkle them with salt & pepper immediately. After all of the eggplant is fried, you can begin layering your Eggplant Parmesan.
5. Layering the Eggplant Parmesan: Begin the assembling process by spreading a ladle-full of room temperature, brown butter-heirloom tomato sauce into the bottom of the baking dish as a base. Layer the crispy eggplant slices, a piece of creamy burrata cheese, & whole fresh basil leaves, following this shingling technique, repeatedly, until all of the components have been used up. Finish by freshly grating some Parmesan cheese and sprinkling some red pepper flakes over the top of the Eggplant Parmesan.
6. Baking the Eggplant Parmesan: Place the finished dish into the oven and bake until the burrata cheese has melted until ooey-gooey and everything has reached a golden brown color. This should take about 15-20 minutes.
7. Finishing the Eggplant Parmesan: Once it has all melted, crisped, baked, and cooked through, spoon a portion of the eggplant onto plates and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan + a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Enjoy with a hearty glass of red wine! 

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